Supreme Court allows wife to pursue millionaire ex-husband decades after divorce

13th March 2015

Sensational media coverage this week has reported on the case which involved a wife who applied for financial provision from her millionaire former husband decades after their divorce. Given that the parties separated over 30 years ago, this case illustrates the absolute importance of dealing with finances at the time of separation.

The highly anticipated and hugely controversial judgment in the case of Vince v Wyatt has now been handed down by the Supreme Court and Melita Bown, a specialist Solicitor in the Family team at Higgs & Sons believes that the decision shows "...how important it is to ensure that a financial order is in place without delay, as the court pronouncing Decree Absolute does not extinguish any future financial claims."

"The key issue in the case was that, while the parties separated in 1984 and the divorce was finalised in 1992, it appeared that neither of the parties took steps to finalise financial claims at this time," explains Melita. 

The parties in question had led a 'New Age traveller' lifestyle while together but, in 1996, four years after their divorce, the husband established a green energy company now valued at £90m. In 2011, the wife issued proceedings against him for financial provision.

The husband applied to the court to have the wife's claim 'struck out', based on the significant delay, but the Supreme Court has now determined that the claim should be allowed to be heard. 

The extent of the wife's award is yet to be quantified but references have been made to her potentially receiving a mortgage-free home. 

Adam Maguire, also a Solicitor in the Family team comments "While this is an extreme case, there are plenty of examples where former husbands and wives embark on new business ventures or receive inheritances following separation which, without putting the appropriate measures in place at the right time, might be open to attack at any point in the future.

"Our advice to the husband in this case would have been to have ensured that a financial order was obtained at the time of divorce or as soon as possible thereafter as there is no limitation period to prevent financial claims being brought by former spouses in the absence of an order.

"The husband should have taken proactive steps to ensure that the wealth which he was beginning to generate as his business took off was protected. If a 'clean break' order had been obtained from the court at the time of the divorce or even after this, the wife would not have been able to bring a claim against him."

Melita concludes that: "While a majority of people would recognise the importance of sensible financial planning such as wills and trusts, it is just as important to ensure that any claims which may arise out of former relationships are properly dealt with."

"A financial order can be obtained by agreement between the parties without the need for a costly court battle, which will determine how the parties' wealth will be distributed and can contain the 'clean break' provision to prevent future claims being brought."

Higgs & Sons are based at the Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill; the firm employs more than 200 people, including over 100 specialist lawyers. For specialist advice on all aspects of Family law, including financial orders please call 0845 111 5050.


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